Minnesota cruises past Golden Eagles

Mark Heise

If the preseason shows any indication of Minnesota’s women’s basketball team’s strengths, then guard-play and defense should be its forte.

The Gophers made full use of their quickness and ball-handling skills to down Minnesota-Crookston 86-47 in their final exhibition game of the season.

“We want our defense to create our offense,” coach Pam Borton said. “We’ve done that the last two exhibition games, and that’s what we need to continue to do.”

Minnesota started off hot, forcing five turnovers in the first 2:30 and jumped out to a 15-0 lead early on.

Freshman guard Brittany McCoy and sophomore guard Emily Fox combined for 11 steals in the game.

One of Fox’s first-half steals led to a crowd-pleasing play as she picked off the pass in the lane, turned her back to the hoop and dished a no-look pass to senior guard Kelly Roysland cutting to the basket.

The Gophers continued to put on a show, forcing more than a turnover per minute from the Golden Eagles, as Crookston coughed the ball up 21 times in the first half and scored just 22 points.

Minnesota’s only field goals came from the paint or beyond the three-point arc, as the slashing style of play offered Minnesota many lay-ups. Kelly Roysland scored 15 of her 19 points in the first half and the Gophers led 43-22.

The Golden Eagles came out with a zone defense in the second half, slowing down Minnesota for the first few minutes. The Gophers were forced to leave the paint, but found their rhythm with their jump shots to score 43 points in the half.

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Crookston meanwhile took advantage of several wide-open looks from the outside to put up 25 against Minnesota, but it wasn’t enough as the Gophers ran away with the 86-47 win.

“I give a lot of credit to Minnesota,” Crookston coach Mike Roysland said. “Their defensive pressure was too much for us to handle. Their length and athleticism caused us a lot of problems.”

The Golden Eagles were outscored from the paint 42-4, and lost the second-chance points battle as well, 17-2.

But, despite the gaudy numbers, Minnesota wasn’t without its own troubles. The post positions couldn’t hold onto the ball, committing 16 of the Gophers’ 21 turnovers.

Kelly Roysland, the team’s only senior, said there was still plenty to improve on.

“We’ve still got a lot to improve on; it’s a work in progress right now,” she said. “We’ve got some specific aspects that we’re focusing on right now, and we’ll get better throughout the year as we mature as a team.”

Whalen to play in Russia

Former Minnesota guard Lindsay Whalen signed a contract to play professional basketball for Ural Mining and Metallurgical Company in Ekaterinburg, Russia.

The league allows two American players on each roster, and Whalen will join Detroit Shock forward Cheryl Ford on the team.

Whalen will be leaving her position as administrative assistant with the Gophers, to play in Europe during the WNBA off-season before heading back to the Connecticut Sun.

“This will be the first time I’ve had a chance to play in the offseason,” she said. “It’s going to be beneficial for me to be working out and playing over the winter.”